The Toxic State of Public Discourse and How to Clean it Up

James Hoggan


Featuring a new, radically revised prologue, afterword, and a new chapter addressing the changes in the public discourse since the 2016 United States election, his comprehensive analysis explores:

  • How political will is manipulated

  • How tribalism shuts down open-minded thinking, undermines trust, and helps misinformation thrive

  • Why facts alone fail and how language is manipulated and dissent silenced

  • The importance of dialogue, empathy, and pluralistic narrative reframing arguments to create compelling narratives and spur action.

Our species' greatest survival strategy has always been foresight and the ability to leverage intelligence to overcome adversity. For too long now this capacity has been threatened by the sorry state of public discourse. Focusing on proven techniques to foster more powerful and effective communication, I'm Right and You're an Idiot will appeal to readers looking for deep insights and practical advice in these troubling times.


Become a more effective and powerful communicator in today's highly polarized and polluted public square.


The most pressing problem we face today is not climate change. It is pollution in the public square, where a toxic smog of adversarial rhetoric, propaganda, and tribalism stifles discussion and debate, creating resistance to change and thwarting our ability to solve our collective problems.

In this second edition of I'm Right and You're An Idiot , James Hoggan grapples with this critical issue, through interviews with outstanding thinkers and drawing on wisdom from highly regarded public figures, including the Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hanh, Karen Armstrong, Jonathan Haidt, Joan Halifax, and Carole Cadwalladr, to name a few .

Anyone who wants to tackle difficult, thorny subjects - from climate change to immigration - needs to do so with a copy of this book in their hand. Insightful interviews with cutting-edge thought leaders from psychology to communication summarise the collective wisdom of experts who think deeply about these issues. This second edition discusses recent developments that further reinforce the book’s original, nearly prophetic, conclusions, from the manipulation of Facebook, YouTube and Google to the the increasingly polarised political rhetoric of today. If you’re looking for a revealing and empowering book that explains the toxic nature of public discourse and how to move beyond it, this is it.
— Katharine Hayhoe, Professor of Political Science , Atmospheric Scientist and CEO of ATMOS Research and Consulting

Public Speaking

James Hoggan is an engaging and sought-after public speaker, whose lectures combine decades of PR knowledge, street smarts, spirituality and compassion.

Hoggan’s book could not be more timely. At a moment when public discourse has seemingly deteriorated to the point of meaninglessness, the field abandoned to those who can simply yell the loudest, his call to tune down the volume, tone down the rhetoric and re-engage in civil, fact-based dialogue is more than important, it’s crucial. Possibly our last hope of salvation. The fact this collection was curated by a public relations specialist is interesting; the depth and breadth of the ideas he challenges us with is impressive and ultimately inspiring. A must-read for anyone who despairs at the pollution in the public square. It doesn’t have to be this way, says Hoggan. There is a way out.
— Gillian Findlay, Host, CBC News: the fifth estate
This is a deeply thoughtful book about what it really takes to communicate, especially with people who we don’t understand. A must-read for anyone trying to break the climate impasse, or indeed, make progress in any domain of social conflict.

— Naomi Oreskes, Professor of the History of Science, Harvard University
Hoggan writes superbly about the power of argumentation to strengthen democracy and advance social justice, and how it is so easily manipulated in pursuit of greed, power and politics. This is a must-read for anyone tired of the bullying, the propagandizing, the screaming and the bullsh*t.
— Dr. Samantha Nutt, author, Damned Nations: Greed, Guns, Armies and Aid
As a popularizer of science, I had long assumed the more information people have, the better their actions and decisions. But today the public has unprecedented access to information, yet clearly political, economic and social policies are distorted by other factors. James Hoggan’s monumental study explores a wide range of thought about the babel that passes for public discourse today. Anyone concerned about how civil society can be better informed so decisions can be made for the public’s long term interests must read this deeply thoughtful book.
— David Suzuki, science broadcaster and environmental activist
In my experience in the world’s crisis zones, inflammatory, toxic discourse exacerbates problems, creating conflict rather than resolving it — and probably gets you killed. So if you want to stay alive, read this incisive book. Honest engagement combined with a healthy dose of empathy is a far better route to constructive dialogue — and survival.
— Nigel Fisher, humanitarian, former UN Assistant Secretary General
“I’m Right and You’re an Idiot is a sound resource for self-evaluation. The book’s call for more sound, less-polarized public conversations is a wonderful challenge I intend to take up.”
— Evangeline Lilly, author and actor